Melinda Lopez's Cuba

by:  Charles Haugland at 03/21/2014

Ten years after Boston playwright Melinda Lopez’s breakout hit Sonia Flew premiered at the Huntington, her newest work Becoming Cuba takes us back to the mercurial and volatile past of the island. An epic and passionate family story, Becoming Cuba zeroes in on the year 1897, late in the series of brutal and bloody civil wars that presaged the Spanish-American War.

The child of two Cuban nationals, Lopez can trace the path of the Cuban wars for liberation through her family tree, and the spark for this play is born out of an ancestral myth. “There is a legend in my family about my great-grandmother, who lived through the Cuban War of Independence,” Lopez says. “When she was 16, the Spanish came to take over her farm and sent her family to internment camps. My great-grandmother refused to go. She took her pet pig under her arms and walked up into the mountains to join the rebels. The play that I eventually wrote is not her story, but it’s certainly infused with her indomitable spirit.”

As Lopez began the play, she envisioned a widow, Adela, “whip smart, very Spanish, and formal.” Born on the island, Adela left the countryside where her brother and father remain active in the rebellion and married a Spaniard who runs a pharmacy in Havana. When her husband is killed in the war, she takes over the apothecary in his stead, adopting his steadfast loyalty to Spain as well. At the play’s rise, Havana is heavily blockaded, and the pharmacy struggles to stock even basic supplies. Adela’s business serves the aristocratic Spanish military (and the occasional, nosy American reporter).

When Adela’s brother Manny appears, begging for supplies, Adela responds practically. “My problem is I owe too many taxes, and I have too few customers,” she tells Manny. “The ones with money to pay me are the soldiers trying to kill you, and then you come for a handout. I should just ask them to send you the cash directly, and keep me out of it.” Adela’s reticence to get involved contrasts starkly with her impassioned sister Martina, who roots for the island to throw off the Spanish oppressors, to trade the Spanish sport of bullfighting for Cuba’s game of baseball.

In shaping the story, Lopez took inspiration from the Arab spring, which was unfolding as she created the first draft. “The media was saturated with images of people taking to the streets in the name of self-determination,” Lopez says. “Ordinary people — with shops and businesses and babies in their arms — who sought something more from their lives and their countries. What makes a person wake up one day and take action like that? And I realized too, that what I felt watching this struggle unfold in another country was a lot like what Americans might have felt watching Cubans butchered by Spain in 1897. I could substitute ‘Cuba’ for ‘Syria’, and the stories were so similar...But then, like now, American intervention leads to greater complexities and unintended consequences. We keep learning that lesson over and over.”

Lopez builds the theme of metamorphosis into the elemental structure of the play, as the specters of those who shaped Cuba’s destiny haunt the stage. “I love watching actors transform,” Lopez shares, “so many of the actors also play an apparition or ghost.” From a conquistador to the wife of Cuban folk hero Hatuey, these voices from history show the reverberations of war extend far beyond an individual time and place. And as the voices in Lopez’s play echo in our ears, so do the five hundred years of evolution for the Cuban people echo through the life of one loyal but achingly vulnerable woman.


  3. 스포츠중계 볼수있는곳 알려드릴게요. 최근 참 많은 스포츠중계를 무료로 볼 수 있는 곳이 생겼죠 제가 알려드릴곳은 네네티비라는 곳이에요. 제가 해외에 살고 있는데, 스포츠중계 검색해서 들어가려고 하면 막힌데가 정말 많더라구요. ㅠㅠ 네이버도 해외에서는 막혀서 좋아하는 야구도 못보고, 한국인의 자랑 손흥민 선수 경기도 보기가 힘들죠. 제가 찾아서 보던곳이 세군데였는데, 이제 여기 네네티비 하나 남았네요. 운영하시는분들도 친절하시구요, 채팅창이 있는데 눈살이 찌푸려질때도 있지만 관리는 잘되는 편인것 같아요. 네네티비 들어가면 바로 방송볼수 있는 화면이 나오는데, 플래쉬설정을 해줘야하긴해요. 하지만 공짜로 보는게 어딘가 싶네요. 연말전에 플래쉬설정 필요없게 사이트 개편한다는 말도 있고하니 좀만 참으면 더 쾌적하게 제가 좋아하는 야구, 농구, 축구 신나게 볼수 있을것 같아요. 주변 지인들에게도 추천해 줬는데, 다들 좋아라 하더라구요, 외국인 친구들이랑 같이본다고 하니까, 손흥민선수 한국어로 방송중계해주는데, 영어중계도 찾아서 틀어주시기도 하더라구요. 어쨋든 스포츠 보시려면 전 '네네티비' 적극 추천합니다. 주소구요 구글에 '스포츠중계' 검색하시거나 '네네티비'만 검색해도 바로바로 나오더라구요!! 스포츠 좋아하시는데 보실데 없는 해외거주 한인여러분! 네네티비 한번 이용해보세요. 완전 강추입니다.

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Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!

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